Priority Questions

National Lottery Licence Sale

Seán Fleming


1. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the planned timescale for the sale of the national lottery licence in view of the major infrastructure projects to be part-funded from the proceeds; the costs he expects to be incurred in the sale process; the measures he will take to ensure that good causes will maintain their current level of benefit from the lottery; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51620/12]

I announced on 4 April 2012 that the Government has decided to hold a competition for the next national lottery licence and that the licence will be for a 20-year period. Since April, my Department has carried out a considerable amount of preparatory work for the competition. It will be necessary to revise the National Lottery Act 1986. The Government has approved the general scheme of the national lottery Bill 2012, which has been sent to the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel to the Government. It is my intention to seek Government approval for the Bill in the current Dáil session and, subject to approval, the Bill will be published shortly afterwards. In tandem with the publication of the Bill, I will set out a scheduled timeline regarding the competitive process for the next national lottery licence.

I have previously indicated that a portion of the upfront payment will be used to help fund the national children’s hospital. While it is likely that some expenditure relating to the hospital project will be incurred in 2013, the greater part of the expenditure on that project will be incurred in subsequent years. Given the complexity of the process regarding the competition for the next licence, my Department engaged external advisers, as planned, to assist it in the process. Following a tendering process carried out by my Department, Davy Corporate Finance was awarded the contract. Davy Corporate Finance will be paid a fee based on the achievement of a number of key objectives during the process. I will set out the full fee cost once the process is completed.

In establishing the parameters for a competition for the next licence, it will be a priority to ensure that the conditions for maintaining and even for increasing annual funding for good causes are put in place.

I thank the Minister for his reply. The principal reason I put down this question was in light of comments from the Department of Health on its expectations regarding the new site for the national children's hospital. Most Members on all sides of the House are glad that a decision has been made. Moreover, they are satisfied with the new site at St. James's Hospital and look forward to it progressing through planning and tendering stages without undue complications. However, allowing for everything going well, the Department of Health has indicated it will be the very end of 2017 or early 2018 before the project has been substantially completed. If the Government obtains proceeds from the sale of the national lottery licence in 2013, what is to happen with the portion therefrom that were earmarked for the children's hospital? That was the essence of my question. Will such proceeds be ring-fenced to make sure they are available? Will such a fund be managed by the NTMA or will it be used for other capital infrastructure projects, with the Minister substituting money in 2018 when it is required? If the latter is the case - I do not express a view in this regard - the Minister essentially would be using the proceeds from the sale of the national lottery licence next year to fund capital investment projects in 2013, 2014 and 2015. However, in 2018, when the bulk of the money would be required for the national children's hospital, the Minister then would be obliged to fund it from current capital expenditure. If this is the case, the link between the sale of the lottery licence and the funding that will be required essentially will have been broken. I wish to ensure the maintenance of this link. While people may have a problem with selling off the national lottery licence, if it is explained to them that it is for the children's hospital, most will be happy with that concept. I even challenge those who are opposed to selling State assets to oppose that concept, with which I am happy.

I call on the Minister to reply.

Finally, I refer to the fee structure for Davy Corporate Finance mentioned by the Minister. I presume that firm has got the contract and it should be a matter of public record at this point. There should be no competitive issues to be dealt with to prevent the provision of some details to Members.

I thank the Deputy for his views and obviously there are issues I am considering at present. There are a number of ways in which the Government might do this although it has not got any money yet. However, assuming the Government will receive a substantial sum of money next year, I am exploring whether it should be put into an escrow account, particularly for the national children's hospital or whether it would be more prudent, as the Deputy rightly stated, to substitute money I know I am getting. However, it is important to have a robust funding mechanism for the national children's hospital. I consider it to be important that people may be assured of that. Consequently, I am minded to ring-fence the money, as Deputy Fleming indicated I might be doing. I am minded to do that and have asked the Secretary General of my Department to explore options in that regard. I will be obliged to bring back the legislation to the House, when Members can go through it in some detail.

The only reason I have not given the Deputy the figures regarding the competitive tendering is that there are conditionalities associated with it. I will only pay on completion of these conditionalities, step-by-step, and I will keep the Deputy abreast in that regard.

While I acknowledge the good spirit behind the Minister's comments, I am a little concerned by what he has just said. He has stated he is considering the options of what to do with the money now, quite a portion of which will not be required for a number of years. An escrow account to be managed by someone else has been mentioned. As for the sale proceeds from the national lottery, a significant portion of which everyone in Ireland understood clearly was for the national children's hospital, the Minister now has put on record he is considering whether other options exist, such as keeping the funds in an escrow account or using them in the interim and possibly substituting them with other funds. The Minister has broken what I consider to be the absolute link between the licence sale proceeds and the national children's Hospital. From the public's point of view, it is everyone's wish to help children, especially in the aftermath of the recent referendum. People were happy with that concept in that even if the national lottery essentially was to be privatised, at least it was being privatised for a good cause. However, the Minister no longer is as absolute about maintaining the link between the sale proceeds and actually using the direct funds. I acknowledge this is through no fault of the Minister, as because of the planning process and the new site, there now is a significant time-lag in respect of the project he had earmarked and which he probably thought would be somewhat more concurrent. This is a matter to which Members must revert.

I wish to be clear about this matter. First, I devised the strategy of ring-fencing because I was searching desperately to find where I could get a significant lump of capital to undertake this flagship project the nation desires, namely, the new national children's hospital. I did not wish to dip any further into the national capital programme and I note the Deputy has been highly critical of my earlier curtailing of it. Consequently, this option seemed to be a very good fit. It is not privatising because under European Union law, the Government is obliged to have competitive tendering for the licence in any event. It may well be that the current licenceholders will win that competitive bid on their own or in a new alliance with someone else. That is one possibility and I do not wish to prejudge any of that. In fact, I have no hand, act or part in the process and I have made sure of that from the outset.

However, my point with regard to an escrow account or a ring-fenced account is that I wish to ensure this sum of money is available to build the children's hospital. How that is to be done is a work in progress because the Deputy is correct. I assumed, when I made the decision, that planning for the original site would go swimmingly and that construction would be under way next year. I believe the country would have applauded getting on with it, whatever one's views about whichever site might be. Ultimately, I am agnostic in respect of the site but I desire the construction of a national children's hospital for the benefit of all the children of the country.

Budget 2013

Mary Lou McDonald


2. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will equality-proof the Government's budget 2013 expenditure measures; and if he will publish the evidence generated as part of this pre-budget proofing process. [51780/12]

With regard to budgetary matters, when focusing on the primary objectives of reducing the deficit and returning sustainability to the public finances, it has been of vital importance to the Government to spread the burden of the adjustments in as fair and equitable a manner as possible, while also seeking to minimise their negative impact on economic growth. The Government must ensure the available resources are spent in the best possible way and that critical services continue to be delivered.

The Deputy may be aware that the programme for Government contains a clear commitment requiring all bodies to take due note of equality and human rights in carrying out their functions. I also remind the Deputy that the State and its bodies must, of course, comply with all provisions of equality legislation in the development and delivery of policies and services. Furthermore, Cabinet procedures require that proposals put to the Government indicate clearly whether there is any impact of the proposal on, among other things, gender equality, persons experiencing or at risk of poverty or social exclusion and people with disabilities.

I raised this issue with the Minister in advance of the budget because the series of austerity measures that has been introduced has hit so hard.

That is particularly evident in low income families and even in some middle income families too. The Minister is probably aware that the ESRI report on the distributional impact of budgets over recent years indicated that the 2012 budget, of all budgets, disproportionately hit people on lower incomes. The report indicated a reduction of approximately 2% or 2.5% of income for the poorest 40% of households, as opposed to a 0.7% impact on the top 30% of households. He is probably also aware that other studies, particularly one carried out by TASC, demonstrate very clearly that the group most at risk of poverty in this State is lone parents. They lost the highest percentage of income in the 2011 budget and that was exacerbated by the 2012 budget.
The Minister has spoken of sharing the burden fairly but I remind him of some of the decisions taken last year. There was a cut to child benefit for third and subsequent children and a cut to the earnings disregard for one-parent families.

Does the Deputy have a question?

There were cuts in back-to-school clothing and footwear allowances. The Minister cannot take those types of decisions and then claim that he has done any kind of a meaningful equality audit in the proposals. I accept the Government must have due regard for equality law in making policy and carrying out functions but that was not the point of my question. Beyond a token nod towards equality and beyond the rhetoric, will the Minister carry out a comprehensive audit and review of the impact of the measures in mind on the nine categories covered by the equality legislation but most particularly on children and poorer families, or people living in or at risk of poverty? Will the Minister do so in advance of making his announcement on 6 December? Will he publish the information?

I will deal with a number of matters raised by Deputy McDonald. Nobody wants to live in an era when we reduce spending, and certainly not to the degree we are required to as part of the programme obligations we must meet to fund all services. We are borrowing money from a lender of last resort on certain conditions. The Deputy knows this full well.

When considering equality in the last budget, we had to consider the budget in its sequence, with a number of measures having an impact over time. We cannot repeatedly go to the same well and we must look to spread the impact. The ESRI SWITCH model does not, for example, take account of capital taxes or VAT, so that has a disproportionate effect. We increased three different types of capital taxes last year and they were not taken into account in that model. We took 300,000 of the lowest paid people from the universal social charge net and we restored the minimum wage, which the Deputy argued we would not or could not do. We also maintained basic social welfare rates.

This was a time when difficult decisions had to be made. More than 70% of all current public expenditure is in areas that affect ordinary people very heavily, such as the health service, provisions for vulnerable people and the social protection and education budget. It is impossible to make the reductions we are obliged to make without considering our options, and we have done that as carefully as possible.

All international studies indicate we must give lone parents the opportunity not to regard themselves as excluded from the workforce but rather provide a chance for them to enter this workforce through education and upskilling. That is the sort of focus the Minister for Social Protection has outlined in some detail.

I agree with the Minister about providing an opportunity to work for one-parent families, so why in God's name would the Government reduce the income disregard for those people? The Minister mentioned the universal social charge, but there are still people earning €17,000 who are liable for it. I asked the Minister, who is responsible for expenditure, specifically about the measures I presume he will announce in the budget. I asked him, quite simply, to carry out an equality audit. We are not breaking any new ground and these procedures are commonly carried out in other jurisdictions. The Minister should be able to satisfy himself, this Dáil and public opinion that when he speaks about equality, serving its objectives and protecting people on very low incomes and children, he will be able to show this to be the case. I take it from the Minister's answer that he has no intention of implementing a proper equality audit or budget, which is very disappointing.

I would be very surprised if the Deputy took anything other than her own view of anything I say. I do not know why she expects an answer as she likes to respond to her own questions with conclusions given in a pre-prepared soundbite to be released afterwards.

There is no answer.

We are in a desperate financial position.

I would not be flippant about this.

The Minister is being flippant.

This affects very vulnerable people and there are no-----

That is my point exactly.

Despite what the Deputy may say or pretend to say, there are no soft options. If a budget is to be downsized when more than 80% is spent on three areas that affect vulnerable people, and there is a requirement under a programme that pays our way to make substantial reductions, it is difficult to not have an impact on people who have carried a significant burden. This Government will act in as fair, balanced and considered way as is possible.

Public Sector Reform Review

Joe Higgins


3. Deputy Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to outsource various public services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51869/12]

Evaluating the opportunity for the external delivery of some public services is an important element of the overall public service reform plan agreed by the Government in November 2011. Last July, the Government agreed a range of actions aimed at achieving a focused and integrated approach to external service delivery of non-core processes with the objective of reducing costs and focusing staff on priority areas. The Government has decided that all proposed new services across the public service will be first tested for external service delivery before any approval to provide the service internally will be granted. A commercial delivery manager has joined the reform and delivery office in my Department to oversee the development and implementation of an external service delivery strategy.

We are evaluating the potential to deliver cost savings and efficiencies with the four main sectors of health, justice, education and local government by assessing areas of non-core work that could be potentially delivered by an external provider. The reform and delivery office has also been engaging with Departments, offices and sectors to identify existing services that may be suitable for delivery by external providers with a view to selecting a number of major projects for evaluation. All of this is in line with the agreement we have with the public sector unions, which is known as the public service or Croke Park agreement, which sets out a clear process for engagement and consultation with public service employees and their representatives. I have insisted that this be carried out in full. I am not of the view that external service delivery options are a panacea for all of our difficulties but they can be a part of an overall solution in the reform agenda for the public services as set out in our reform plan.

What is this except a proposal for wholesale destruction of sections of the public sector and wholesale privatisation? The Government has already killed off tens of thousands of jobs in the public sector and plans to kill tens of thousands more. At the same time it is proposing to privatise services from the same public service it is annihilating. What is this except an agenda to secure widespread privatisation? What is the reason behind it? Is it to create call centre-type operations with sweated workers to replace permanent and pensionable jobs?

The Minister stated the purpose was to reduce costs. He should work with public sector workers by bringing them to the heart of management of the public service. If improvements are to be made in that regard, he should make them. This proposal, however, is an incredible scenario.

Has the Minister not learned from the disastrous history of privatisation in this State, of which Telecom Éireann and Team Aer Lingus are but two examples? The bleeding of Eircom by vulture capitalists has left us years behind other countries in terms of broadband investment, while in Team Aer Lingus we had the destruction of a tremendous aircraft maintenance facility. This is a disaster.

The Deputy may wish to examine the specifics before deciding ideologically that it is a disaster. Let us consider what we are proposing in terms of shared services. We will have the PeoplePoint facility to avoid duplication of individual human resource management in every agency and workplace. This function will be rationalised in one unit and we could do the same with pensions management. This is what normal, efficient companies do.

I do not discriminate between public and private sector workers. Employees are workers and should be respected as such. Working in the private sector does not automatically mean working in a sweatshop or in appalling conditions. Some of the best workplace conditions are in the private sphere. I wish we could be as comprehensive in having the best quality services and conditions and places of work in the public arena.

We are examining how to achieve a more efficient and focused public service. Some things can be done better in the private sphere. For example, if one was establishing a bakery tomorrow, one would not open a laundry next door to do the bakery's laundry but would have it done by a professional laundry. Certain things are done on scale and can feed into the public service to enable it to focus on those things it does best. The public service is unique in providing quality services across education, health care and many other areas which I am determined not only to preserve, but to enhance.

The 2008 OECD report on the Irish public sector was complimentary and stated it compared very well with the public sectors of wealthier European countries. The Minister referred to duplication and achieving other efficiencies. Why does he not achieve this by discussion inside the public service with the involvement of public sector workers? As he is well aware, many of the most recent entrants into service provision are low paying employers who do not provide any level of security of tenure and offer difficult working conditions.

Although it is separate from the areas to which the Minister referred, water is a crucial public service. I note from reports this morning that Bord Gáis will commence wholesale water metering of homes in 2014. This is a complete waste of public money. The resources in question should be used to remediate the disastrous water infrastructure rather than fattening up the water service for privatisation.

The Deputy referred to a 2008 report. There are many reports on our economy from that period which would not be considered accurate in the current circumstances. I am very proud of our public services and will defend them. I want to migrate the best practices in the private sphere into the public sector and I hope the best practices in the public sphere, integrity for example, will migrate into some elements of the private sector, banking for instance, from which it has been absent in the past.

The Deputy asked a question about discussions. Discussions are provided for in the Croke Park agreement and take place before we do any outsourcing. As laid down in the agreement, there will be interaction and dialogue with the trade unions.

Water will remain as a public utility in public ownership; this is understood. However, water metering is part of the programme for Government and memorandum of understanding with the troika.

Public Sector Reform Review

Seán Fleming


4. Deputy Sean Fleming asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will outline new initiatives undertaken since 31 March 2012 in respect of shared services across the public service and the associated cost savings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51814/12]

The shared services programme, as set out in the public service reform plan, is being implemented incrementally. Good progress has been made since the end of March, principally in respect of the following; a shared services transformation unit has been has been established within my Department and is working with nominated senior officials to ensure ambitious and robust plans are developed and implemented in the other key sectors of health, education, justice, defence and local government; a shared service entity, PeoplePoint, has been established for administering transactional Civil Service human resources and pensions activities; a base-lining exercise of Civil Service payroll, which describes the processes, systems and estimated costs of current provision, has been completed and the business case is now being developed; a base-lining Civil Service financial management and banking services has recently commenced; a high level review of procurement has been conducted; and the appointment of a chief procurement officer is in train.

Based on experience from abroad, a shared service centre cannot deliver savings until it is fully established and stabilised. This typically takes two years and the payback period is usually four years. For this reason, it is not possible at this stage to provide information on actual savings. That said, I am satisfied with the progress made to date. An ambitious transformation plan is being implemented for the Civil Service and the shared services transformation unit is working with nominated senior officials to ensure similar plans will be implemented in the other key sectors of health, education, justice, defence and local government.

We are building the appropriate expertise, engaging with each key Department in a structured way and ensuring that decisions will be based on strong evidentiary platforms derived from baselines and business cases. International experience shows that this is the best way to realise maximum benefits from shared services over time.

Was the Department's new shared services transformation unit involved in the establishment of Student Universal Support Ireland? The new service, which was established at considerable cost to provide shared services among the various agencies processing third level grants, is a disaster. While I agree that services can be provided more efficiently, does the Department have sufficient internal competence to ensure shared service initiatives work? Last week, officials from the Health Service Executive appeared before the Committee of Public Accounts to discuss public sector allowances. The HSE chief executive designate, Mr. Tony O'Brien, indicated at our meeting that with eight payroll systems operating in the health service, it is not possible to obtain timely information because the systems are dispersed throughout the country. Shared services in the HSE, the largest employer in the State, are urgently required. The Department's shared services transformation unit should work on this issue if it has the necessary capability.

Some local authorities have produced a programme for shared services. My local authority, Laois County Council, is seeking to have one organisation provide all payroll and pension services for all local authorities, with the possibility of having shared human resource services rolled out subsequently.

I am surprised by the Minister's statement that the system will not deliver cost savings for the first two years of operation. While a set-up cost is to be expected, people will be shocked to learn that it will take a further four years to recover the initial outlay. It appears that savings will not be achieved for six years. Greater efficiency is required to ensure repayment is made to taxpayers more quickly.

I will address the Deputy's final point first. Having examined international best practice, we found that, on average, the payback period is approximately four years. Savings, albeit not necessarily in cash, will be achieved immediately. Having accelerated the transfer of activities into the PeoplePoint human resource management entity, we estimate this initiative will achieve an immediate 20% saving in staffing. However, as we do not sack people in the Civil Service, the staff affected will be redeployed and the reduction in staff cannot, therefore, be counted as a saving. PeoplePoint is operating much more efficiently than the previous system and allows staff to do other front-line work.

The Deputy asked a question about Student Universal Support Ireland. My Department was not involved in this project, for which preparation work commenced some time ago, and I am not familiar with the details. It is a matter for the Minister for Education and Skills. We are carefully evaluating the shared services we are structuring and doing a baseline analysis of data, after which we will do a business case. We are acting in a robust manner and know what we are doing.

We have recruited people with expertise to run these services. Designated senior officers in each sector will be responsible. We will have a dialogue on the reform plan, but we are progressing in a structured, measured and visible way.

I am satisfied with the principle of shared services. Given the fact that 40 local authorities each have different systems to do the same work, there is scope. After people have received their third level grants in January, the new shared service transformation unit needs to find out what happened in Student Universal Support Ireland, SUSI, to prevent a recurrence. The Minister seems to be saying that it is a matter for the Department of Education and Skills. However, he is embarking on a programme of shared services across the public service, and one of the most public and largest operations under that heading has caused a disaster. This is notwithstanding the fact that it commenced prior to his Department coming into being. If the Department learns nothing by next February except how to avoid repeating such mistakes, it will have been a good period's work. I advise the Minister to take a hands-on approach, to learn the lessons and to have his Department and not just the Department of Education and Skills examine the matter.

The Deputy has made a fair point. I will ensure that we learn from the analysis of whatever failings, faults or mistakes occurred in the processing of student grants so that the lessons can be applied generally across the other shared services on which we embark.

Budget 2013

Stephen Donnelly


5. Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will outline the way the forecasted €2.25 billion cuts for Budget 2013 will be distributed across Government Departments; if he will outline the processes and analysis used to determine this distribution; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [51921/12]

In the Comprehensive Expenditure Report 2012-14, CER, published in December last year, I set out the various elements of the Government's medium-term expenditure framework. A key element was the introduction of ministerial expenditure ceilings, which are three-year allocations of current expenditure to each Minister. The Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2012, which was published on 28 September, will when enacted provide the legislative change necessary to put these ceilings on a statutory basis.

The Government took account of a wide range of often competing considerations and policy priorities to decide on the balance between priorities in setting these parameters. The CER set out the main results of this process, while the individual papers produced by Departments give more detail on the analysis underpinning the final ceilings. These papers are available on my Department's website.

The ceilings published in the CER form the basis upon which the detailed 2013 expenditure allocations are being decided by the Government. The precise composition of the 2013 budgetary consolidation will be set out in the budgetary statements on 5 December. In this context, the aggregate levels of expenditure are split by reference to ministerial Votes and the detailed disbursement of the resources within their allocations is a matter for each Minister in accordance with overall agreed Government policy.

It is my intention to undertake a comprehensive expenditure review process every three years. However, I do not intend that the role of evaluation should come to a halt in the years between these large-scale formal expenditure reviews. Rather, the new public spending code introduced by my Department will ensure that ongoing evaluation becomes an integral part of expenditure policy.

The role of evaluation was further enhanced by the introduction earlier this year of the Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service, IGEES. The work of the service will support each Department in evaluating policy and expenditure options.

I draw the Deputy's attention to the new whole-of-year budgeting process that is currently under way. I discussed it with the Deputy at the committee meeting. All Dáil select committees have the opportunity to participate in the annual Estimates process in an ex ante fashion with Departments. This process introduces an important new dimension of accountability that will enhance the role and the policy relevance of the select committees.

I thank the Minister for his detailed response. I appreciate that he is trying to move in the right direction. I participated in the finance committee's examination of his Department. He will probably agree that it was useless. There was no accountability for the Department's increase of the CER by €88 million. The data we examined were not rigorous. My understanding is that the same frustrations were heard from the other Departments.

In February, the Minister stated that we had an open and more modern budgetary process that allowed the Dáil to be fully involved in expenditure policy. That is not the reality. Deputy McDonald asked a fundamental question about whether the Government will conduct an equality impact assessment of the budget. I have asked whether there will be a regulatory impact assessment, a gender impact assessment or a poverty impact assessment. The Minister did not answer my question.

As the Minister is aware, the OECD rates our budgetary process as the second worst in the developed world. In particular, it points out that the Parliament has no time to interrogate a budget before the latter is presented as a fait accompli by the Government. In two weeks time, the Minister and his colleague, the Minister for Finance, will address the Dáil, but that will be it. We score zero out of ten in that regard. The OECD also scores us zero out of ten in terms of the quality of information provided to allow us to interrogate the budget.

I appreciate that the Minister is trying to modernise an archaic, useless system. Specific to the upcoming budget, will there be a regulatory impact analysis, a gender impact assessment and a poverty impact assessment? If so, will we have them before the budget?

In our discussions, I have found the Deputy to be process-focused, that is, on regulatory impact assessments and so on. The Government has published ceilings of expenditure and, through the CER, set out policy options. We must select from these options to achieve the ceilings. This process does not require regulatory impact assessments or anything else in terms of the participation of Members of the Oireachtas. There is a marked reluctance by Members to drill down into the detail and, as I had hoped since the start of this year, consider the sum of money available, examine the policy options and recommend a number of them.

The Deputy promised to make a pre-budget submission. I undertake to examine it carefully. However, we are two weeks away from the budget. He needs to publish his submission sharply if it is to have an impact.

This is the first year that we have had this process. I agree with the Deputy that it has not been successful. I hope that, at the beginning of next year, committees can set out in any shape or form they like the data that they require. However, I do not want people to become absorbed in the process. Equality proofing and so on is important and will be done, but one must eventually get off the fence and recommend policy options to achieve the difficult financial objectives that we must meet.

We must meet them and I assure the Minister that I am not obsessed with process. I am obsessed with getting the right information. There is a large national protest of people with intellectual and physical disabilities and their carers. They are terrified that the Minister or his colleague, the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, might decide to cut a further €54 million from them. They do not know whether it will occur because there is no draft budget to interrogate.

In other countries, parliaments and citizens are given draft budgets three months before budget day. They take the form of technical appendices containing the governments' proposals and the impact of same on people with disabilities, people living in poverty and children who cannot get enough food. The parliaments and civic societies engage with the governments on the draft budgets. This is not the case in Ireland.

I am not interested in ticking boxes. I am interested in this Parliament being able to fulfil its constitutional role, which is to consider the Estimates. This is not the case currently.

I had hoped that the Deputy would have a more ambitious role than to critique someone else's proposals. When I was on that side of the House, I fought for parliamentarians to have the ability to table our own ideas. If the Deputy believes that the disability sector should be preserved, he should table alternatives that exclude it from cuts. This is what being a robust parliamentarian means.

In our budgetary documentation last year, we published the medium-term financial framework. We have updated it for the next three years. The Deputy knows the ceilings, how much money we have, the breakdown between tax and expenditure and the breakdown between current and capital expenditure. He should propose measures.

We also provided the Deputy with the comprehensive review data of all the options and the costings for them. If he wants any more, he should ask for them.

They are depressing options.

They are all bad options. Deputy Broughan is right but that is the awful state we are in. I am asking people, if they want Parliament to be Parliament, to make the decisions. They should not say this is what we should not do but they should say this is what we should do. Let us see the Deputy's proposals to meet the thresholds we are obliged by our funders to reach. As I said, I look forward to seeing Deputy Donnelly's draft submission so that I can see the policy options he is recommending.